The satisfying prospect of a gang of lotto fraudsters meeting their comeuppance features in a story in The Register this week, which reported that Somerset police have busted a bogus lottery winner scam following a raid on a cheque processing and clearing house.
Readers will be familiar with the letter-based scam at the centre of the raid, where the fraudsters attempted to dupe members of the public into thinking they had won a prize. Recipients were asked to send in GBP 20 as an "administrative fee" in order to collect their "winnings," and of course if they were unwary enough to do so, that was the last they saw of the lottery, their fictitious winnings…and their GBP 20.
In reality, the cheques sent in as the "administrative fee" were cashed and money laundered before being sent to fraudsters based overseas, The Register reveals.
Officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) led an investigation into the scam, culminating in a raid on an address in Somerset, where cheques and payments adding up to nearly GBP 500 000 were recovered. These cheques will be returned to an incredible (and gullible) 22 000 senders, with a note explaining the scam and urging them to be more careful in future.
Police investigators opined that the scam might have netted as much as GBP 35 million had it been allowed to continue.
Scam emails often claim that recipients have won prizes in lotteries run by overseas lottery organisations, or even Microsoft, in the case of one common variant. In reality, these fraudulent messages are the opening gambit in an advanced fee fraud.